Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The End of a Great Semester

I'm just writing this blog to reflect on my first semester abroad, seeing as it's about to end ( 3 more days!) This semester has gone by so quickly. I can't believe that I have lived in another country for four months already. It seems like a month or two at most. I have seen 6 countries and about 19 0r 20 cities since I have come, and I have not even done half of what I plan to do while over here. It is amazing to think that I have done this, because I was so nervous to come here all spring and summer; actually, I was a total wreck about it. I think that packing up and moving to another country for a year is daunting to anyone, and usually I'm pretty adventurous, but when it came to this, I had no clue what to expect, naturally. After four months, I am happy that I came, and feel that this is the best decision that I have ever made. Of course there are times when I am completely homesick for Pittsburgh and all I want to do is spend time with my family, but in the grand scheme of things, 10 months is not that long, and this year is worth every minute of homesickness that I experience.

Culturally, Belgium is quite different, and is not what I expected, but I think that I am used to how it feels to be an American here. Sometimes I'll go out and somebody will ask me where I'm from, and when I say America, I usually get negative answers, which upsets me, but I always brush it off. If anything, it makes me more proud to be from the U.S. However, I have also gained a different perspective on the negative aspects of my country. I realize that it is super competitive and that everybody is obsessed with body image, etc, but I guess that i am used to these things. It probably will be wierd to go back to the suburbs and see all the crazy Oxford Athletic Club desperate housewives, but I've learned that any experience is knowledge gained. If one thing has struck me while I have been here, it is the fact that Americans don't live simply, and that capitalism, as great as it is, can run out of control sometimes. People over here live with what they need. They don't live in excess. That is the one flaw of my country, but overall, America's got a lot going for it...especially optimistic, outgoing, friendly people. Belgians are introverts and certainly seem glum most of the time, but on the other hand, if you make an attempt to get to know them, some will accept you with open arms. I have made a few friends in my English class and also in the house.

It will be sad to see some kids go from this house that I had a lot of fun with. However, some are staying for the year, especially those I am closest to, which is great. I have already become very close to some people in the house from Loyola and abroad, and I don't want this year to end, as much as I know I will miss home at certain times. I just can;t see myself back at Loyola after this year, but I think that will jsut be another challenge for me to overcome. In the meantime, I look forward to next semester ( 6 months!) and all of the new adventures that it holds. I can only imagine the laughs and good times that will take place, seeing as there has already been so many. I'm sick now, so I should probably try to get better before my 9 hour flight home on sat.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


It's been a week since we have returned from the crazy city of Amsterdam. I am now resting and catching up on work ( phew! lots of reading/papering to do!) But I definately had a great time there. Everybody knows the city for it's liberality, but there's honestly more to it than just that and it is not a dirty city by any means, even though the red light district is obviously raunchy. We went to the VanGogh Museum on Friday night, The Anne Frank House on Saturday, and the Rijks Museum on Sunday. We also took a boat tour and saw the Sinterklaas parade, which I am currently writing an article on for Cafeabroad.

My two favorite parts of the trip were the Anne Frank House and the beautiful canals. It was so wierd to actually jump up the ledge behind the bookcase that Anne Frank used every day. It was also quite eerie to be in her room and look outside to the only view she had during her two years of isolation. I got chills up my spine. The canals were gorgeous. If you venture from the heart of the city, you'll find a lot more. There were also christmas lights everywhere and it looked like a town out of the 1950's. It was so cool!

One thing I am really glad that I did on this trip was relax. I spent a lot of time in cafes or bars just sipping an Amstel or Heineken, which was nice. Sometimes you literally walk for 7-8 hours straight during trips and it can be extremely tiring, tothe point where you're cranky and just want to sleep. I knew my limits this time though, and wasn't afraid to just stop when I had to. My parents and I did this a lot in London and Brugge and I found it be a great way to re-energize oneself. Oh the powers of a pub!

I almost forgot to mention the markets! Saturday was market day in Amsterdam, as it is in most cities. We went to this huuuuge antique market and I about died and went to heaven when I found this amazing 80's store. Inside were metallic sweaters, hot pink dresses, and crazy multi-colored spandex. I wanted to buy this one dress that was hot pink and black and flared out at the bottom, but it was 25 euro and I just couldn't justify it, seeing as the exchange rate is at an all-time low and money is going even faster, due to gift-buying for the holiday season.

Well, now I must get back to reading Dracula, because I have to finish it by Thursday. I don't think this is honestly going to happen, but I guess I can make an honest attempt, right? The work is a burden and is not too fun, but we are all pumped about Christmas around here. I have put up a stocking outside of my door and am counting down the days until I can return home! We have picked secret santas too which is exciting. We're going to give gifts every week and then we're going to have a Christmas party on December 13th. I originally booked a flight to London for that weekend, but I am going to ancel it because I want to be able to share that weekend with people here before I go home, and I also need to finish up all the stuff that is due before I go home. Also, I know that Im going to be experiencing major jet lag after my trip home. It's comforting to know that I will be returning home soon, because to be honest, I was really homesick on Thanksgivbing. I have not legimately felt homesick this whole semester ( ok, maybe a few times here and there), but on Thanksgiving I was down. It was just hard hearing about all the activities that my family and friends were doing without me. However, we had a GREAT feast here and it was so much fun. Everybody went out after and we also played football, which was fun. When you can't have your family at home, you can definately rely on people in Leuven, and they have definately proved to be a source of great comfort for me.

I can't believe I've been living in Europe for 3 months now! wow!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Folks Visit

This past week, my parents came to visit, which was a lot of fun. They arrived on Wednesday, the 7th, in Leuven. I walked them around and got lunch with them at a restaurant, and then we got dinners and beers at a restaurant on the Munstraat. After downing one too many Belgian beers in far too short of a period, my mom stumbled into the street and was laughing too hard to take a picture with me. It was hilarious. I don't think that anybody is prepared to drink beers that are anywhere from 7-12 percent alcohol. They expect our beers to be like any other beers- 4 or 5 percent. I think my dad was a little bit tipsy also. Regardless, I think they both enjoyed the beer and the mussels we had for dinner ( a Belgian specialty).

On Thursday, my parents hung out while I went to class. During the evening, we went out for drinks and then ate dinner at an Italian place with all of the Leuven kids. Everybody was really grateful for the dinner, considering that we live off of spaghetti, bread, and cheese most of the time.

On Friday, we went to Brugge. Because Loyola took us on a trip here in September, I knew the town a little bit and was able to navigate us to some pretty places. However, it was pouring down rain and we tried to stop into as many chocolate stores as possible to get warm ( and obviously eat chocolate). My mom was amazed at how much chocolate there was and also how cute the town was. I think she bought a little too much chocolate though. She got all of her christmas shopping done in one day, much to the dismay of my dad, who constantly nagged us to go to the pubs. At the end of the day, I took them to this awesome pub that our director showed us last time we went. It had a lot of trappist beers and other unique Belgian beers. My dad definately liked this part of the trip. We made friends with some British people that night, who warned us that British beers are nothing compared to Belgian beers ( hence, why they were there)

On Saturday, we left for London. Looking back, I can't believe that my parents actually did all of this. It certainly seems crazy. I give them a lot of credit for being almost 50 and trekking around Europe. London was everything that people claim it to be. It was really touristy, but soooo cool. I loved all of the history to it and all of the original pubs. I also really liked the accents! When we first arrived, we went to the Portobello Market, which is an antique market held on Saturdays in Notting Hill. I loooooved it! I got some presents for people there and then I had a few drinks with my parents. After this, we walked to kensington Palace and gardens. We saw the statue of Peter Pan , which made me really happy. I love the story of Peter Pan and the movies about it, such as" Hook" and "Finding Neverland". The sun was setting when we walked through the gardens, so it was really beautiful. That night, we got dinner close by and then crashed early.

On Sunday, we saw a lot. We took the tube to the Globe Theatre, took a tour of that, took a tube to St. Pauls, and saw a Remembrance Day Procession. There were a lot of older men walking out with old fashioned tuxedos on. I was really moved by all of this and it was incredible that we had the opporunity to see Harry Patch- the 109 year old War War 1 Veteran that was honored that day. After going to half of an Anglican Mass, we walked to the Charles Dickens Inn for some fish and chips. I could eat fish and chips everyday. Then we walked to the tube and went to Baker Street to the fictitious house of Sherlock Holmes. Although it wasn't much of anything, it was cool to get a picture by the door of 221b Baker Street, being the literary nerd that I am. That night, we went to this really cool pub that was tucked away and hard to find. I think it was called "The Grenadier". There were a bunch of soliders inside, due to Remembrance Day, and in addition, it was the pub that the soliders went to that fought against Napoleon. It seemed a little bit haunted, but also really neat. This area was the residence of some famous authors, such as T.S. Elliot and Mary Shelley, which was pretty cool ( once again, a literary reference).

On Monday, we went to Westminster Abbey and the Parliament. Then we went to a pub and I got fish and chips again. After this, we went to Buckingham Palace and then Picadilly Circus. We were going to go to The British Library Galleries, where they had original manuscripts by Jane Austen and Shakespeare on display, but my mom was going too slow and got shut into the tube, so my dad and I had to meet my mom at the next stop. I was so tired and fed up and we all decided that we had to eliminate one part of the day. So, we decided not to do that, which, looking back, was probably the wrong decision. That night, we headed to Harrod's and shopped there for awhile. Most of it was ridiculously expensive, but it was cool to see the store. It was honestly the most outrageous place I have ever been. I was blown away. The food halls were incredible. They had every kind of food you could imagine and everything else as well. I felt like I was in Willy Wonka's factory or something. We had sushi there that night. It was sad to leave my parents at the end, but it was a great. I had an awesome time and Id love to go back to London.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Murphy's Law

I just finished two great weekends of travel! Our visit to Aachen and Monchau Germany was amazing. Aachen, although not so scenic, had great German food. We tried some bratwurst, pretzels, and these doughnut esque things...all were delicious. We had a guided tour of a cathedral in Aachen where the bones of Charlemagne were kept! I actually saw the femur of Charlemagne. That is a pretty cool claim in my book. We also saw a giant cathedral in Aachen that was dark and scary. It had a beautiful gold mosaic roof though, sort of similar to St. Mark's in Venice. After touring Aachen for a few hours, we headed to a small town called Monschau ( may or may not be spelling this correctly). This town seemed like it was out of a story book. There were beautiful streams and Swiss-like cottages everywhere, all surrounded by wooded hills. Because it was right before Halloween, everybody was dressed up and they were selling this hot wine drink that everybody loved. It was neat, because nobody really gets into Halloweeen in Belgium. There was a 5 story Christmas store in this town as well, which made me excited for the holidays. It was nice to just be able to relax in this town, because many of the times when we are traveling it is rushed and hectic. I strongly believe that traveling to any city when you're only allotted a few hours or days is going to be this way. That's why it's nice to travel outside of cities and see lesser known places.

After our short Germany trip, we rested up, celebrated Halloween here ( very fun, but I was sick), and then we took off for Ireland. All together there were 7 girls in the group to Ireland. We flew into Dublin on Halloween night and were immediately excited when we saw bonfires and fireworks everywhere from the plane. We realized that Halloween is huge in Ireland...makes sense due to it's Gothic nature haha. We trekked to our Hostel, which I had apparently booked for the wrong night. It worked out though, and they gave us a room. We then headed out to meet my friend Cookie's friend from home who happened to by studying abroad in Dublin. We hung out at his place and then he walked us to a favorite bar of his right by the River Liffey. There were 3 stories in this bar and everybody was in costume; it was so much fun. We dressed as the rainbow; I was green. We got a lot of whistles from the Irish men, so apparently we looked pretty good. We all tried our first Irish Guiness, which was so delicious, but obviously really thick. I didn't make it through more than 1/4 of it. I tried some Bulmers cider too, thanks to the recommendations of my friend Kevin O'Conner, who studied abroad in Ireland last year. It was really sweet, which is quite different from Guiness, but also very good. We were disappointed to find out that the bars close at 2 in Dublin, because they stay open until 7-8 in Leuven haha. This was probably good though, because after a few pints, I was ready to just go to my hostel and sleep. On the way home, we ran into some crazies who were just being silly I guess. I, being the genius that I am, started to speak to them in an English accent. They started berating me and pointed to the nearby post- office with bullet holes in it from the Easter Uprising. I forgot about the minor detail that the Irish don't like the English as I was speaking to them, which I attribute to the pints I had at the pub. Oops. Oh well. W e made it home safely.The hostel ended up being decent, because we got some sleep and basically had the room to ourselves, which was great.

The next day we walked around Dublin and saw St. Pats, etc. It was probably the most beautiful thing in the city. Then we took a 4 hour bus ride to Cork, which was really scenic, and stayed with friends that night. Loyola has a program in Cork, so it was nice to see familiar faces. We got up on Friday and took a trip to Blarney to kiss the Blarney stone. That was our favorite part of the trip. It was so gorgeous there. The castle was so old and it was hard to believe that we were walking up the stairs of a 600 + year old place. I was the first to kiss the stone and I was nervous, because we had to bend over a wall. The 70 year old guy working there eventually said, "You either kiss the stone, or kiss me", so I kissed the stone haha.Supposedly this endows you with eloquence, although I am not so sure that I have received this blessing. After kissing the stone, we wandered around the grounds and then had lunch at an Irish restaurant. I had ham, cabbage, and potatoes. The potatoes tasted like gold, if gold could be tasted. Thank God that the Potato Famine was only temporary, because Irish potatoes are heaven on earth.

On Saturday, we planned to go to see the cliffs and then head back to Dublin for the night. However, when we arrived at the station at 7:30 am, they told us that there were no buses on weekends in the winter to the Cliffs of Moher. We woke up really early just so that we could go there and were really let down, because we wanted to see these (at least I did). We almost rented a car, but I was the only 21 year old and had left my wallet here in Leuven (just another part of the hilariousness of the trip). So we decided to go to Kinsale, a small town about 45 minutes from Cork. It was really really quaint there, as it was a fisherman town right on the coast. There were cottages everywhere painted in pastels and there were sailboats all over the harbor. We walked around and shopped a little bit, because they had handmade jewelry everywhere for reasonable prices. I bought a ring and a pair of earrings, both of which I love. The earrings were only 9 euro and are so cool. The whole day consisted of us walking with our bags, because we had nowhere to put them. Most of the trip was spent this way. We were always traveling and dragging luggage haha. We also lived off of peanut butter sandwichs and chips. We tried to travel as budget as possible. We definately looked like a bunch of ragged, broke students throughout the entire trip, which was funny.

Saturday night we headed back to Dublin and we went right to bed. However, there were problems with the hostel. It was like a refugee camp and they jipped us 2 beds. We eventually figured it all out, but it was just hard working this out on our own when we were dead tired. The hostel was dirty, skechy, and loud, but because we booked it so late, it was all that was available. We're currently trying to get somewhat of a refund because our reservation was not met. All I know is that I'm getting on hostelworld.com and telling people not to stay there. I did not like that night. Sunday morning we got up early( yet again) and went to the Guinness Storehouse. It was really neat and at the end we got to drink a pint with a 360 view of Dublin. We sat down and looked at the misty mountains while we sipped on the beer at 10 am, haha. Awesome. I won't forget that part of the trip. After this, we made our way to the airport and ended up arriving in Leuven about 8 hours after we actually left for it. We chose to fly through Ryan Air, which is cheaper, but in the long run, not worth it. The airport that we flew out of was 2 hours away from leuven. We had to take 2 trains and a bus to get there, which was a pain in the neck. On the way home it took about 5 hours. I will never take that airline again...I have learned my lesson. Brussels airport is only 20 minutes trainride from here, so I am definately taking that route next time. Forget Charleroi Brussels South.

Soo all in all, Ireland was great. We saw a lot and had so many laughs. Every time we missed a bus, didn;t have a bed, had to get 3 hours of sleep, or were forced to eat chips for dinner, we ended up laughing about it in the end. I guess that I really learned a lot from this trip and next time I will definately be able to plan better. I want to go back to Ireland this year, so I may try to get a flight into Shannon or Galway and just stay there for a night. I feel like it would be worth it to do this. Some of my friends were talking about wanting to go camping when the weather gets nicer, so we may try to camp in the Black Forest part of Germany or maybe the coast of Ireland. I'd probably like to do travels with a smaller group in the future as well. It is extremely difficult to travel with more than 4 people in my opinion.Dividing up the money and making sure everybody was happy was just kind of hard to do. Also, of course there are tensions when it comes to what people want to do. Everybody always wants to do something different. They say that you get to know people the best when you travel with them, and this is definately true. A person's true character shows when it comes down to difficult moments during a trip. I know I kind of lost it the last night, but I definately calmed down and just went to sleep. I think our group did pretty well with this now that I look back on it. I'm just glad that we were safe and had so much fun. It was definately an adventure that provided me with alot of memories and also taught me a lot. My parents come on Wednesday morning, so I need to get stuff cleaned, do homework, and get rested up!! I can't wait to see them :-)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

It's been a long time, I know

Thanks to all the people who have reminded me to update my blog. Once again, it makes me glad that people actually read this thing :-) haha. I can't believe that it's been a month since I last updated my writings on Europe...I need to stay on top of things here. Ever since classes started ( Sept. 25) I have been caught up in classes, reading, errands, and well, traveling and partying too. It's really gotten a lot busier lately because of classes, even though free time is more than abundant. I only really have a full day of classes on Thursdays. Mondays I have two classes spread out from eachother, and on Wednesday I have one class from 8-10 am. The other days I have no class. I calculated the amount of hours I am spending in class, and it is the same as I spend in class at Loyola, except that it is condensed into one lecture per week per subject. It is hard to sit through 2-3 hour long lectures ( especially when the teacher has a speech impedement, turns off all the lights, and reads from slides), but let me tell you, it is worth it to have almost 3 free days as a result. However, even though I do have a lot of free time, I usually end up using it to read or get other things done. I have sooo much reading for my classes! The hard thing is that they give you everything at the beginning and basically you're on your own, and the final is your only grade. It's very independent over here and if you cannot take care of yourself you are in a difficult situation. So far I have been fine though, and I have been able to keep up with reading and learning. I just keep reminding myself that I basically have all week every week to complete things. It's just a matter of motivation and organization.

Well enough about schoolwork! Leuven has been lots of fun. We have stayed here for the most part, with a few daytrips here and there. We went to Brussels for White Night, which was disappointing and unorganized, Ghent, Oostende, Antwerp, and Brugge, which were beautiful. I have seen pretty much all of Belgium over the past month, which is nice. It is definately a cute little European country that is not as explored as it should be. Tomorrow ( Thurs the 25th) we are celebrating Halloween in the Huis, because many of us will be gone for Halloween, as it is right before our fall break. Each kitchen decorates and is judged. The winner gets a prize haha. Everybody is going to dress up and then go out as well. Our unit is being Belgian beers... I am Westmalle ( my favorite beer here...a trappist). It has become a tradition to do Halloween here, as Europeans find it fascinating that we celebrate it this way. In regards to the house, I love everybody here and am growing a lot closer to the internationals, especially the ones in my unit. I am going on a trip to Prague, Budapest, Vienna, and Salzburg in February with my roommate Luisa, her friend Andrea, and my friend Cookie. I never thought that I'd be planning a trip with people from a different country! It is going to be so much fun traveling with them! I really lucked out with my roommate situation. Luisa is the best.

On Saturday, we will be going on a daytrip to Aachen, Germany, which is paid for by Loyola. Then, on Halloween, me and 6 other Loyola girls depart for Dublin Ireland!!! We are staying in Dublin on Wednesday night, departing for Cork on Thursday, going to see the cliffs on Saturday, and then staying in Dublin on Sat. night again. On November 7th, 3 days after we get back, my parents arrive! They will be spending 3 days in Belgium ( we will see Brugge and Leuven) and then we will head off to London for 3 days! I am so excited for them to come. I know that they will love it here and I cannot wait to see familiar faces. On Nov. 16-18, we will be departing for Amsterdam with Loyola. Besides the obvious nightlife that we will encounter and will not be talked about in a public forum such as this, we will be seeing the Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank's House, and a famous World War II Museum. I am super excited for that trip as well. The end of November and beginning of December will consist of me "getting my paper/study on". I have 3 big papers due in December, as well as a Dutch final. I take the rest of my finals when I come back from Christmas ( boo).

Sooo to wrap this blog up (because I have to read some Low Countries history and a 500 page gothic novel woo hoo), I am loving Leuven, but missing home. I know that I will be as busy as ever in the upcoming weeks, but I am actually really excited for Christmas break. It will be so great to see people and stay in my own home for a bit. I think it will help me gain the energy to come back here and take godforsaken finals in the month of January. Although I do miss home, I really feel like this house is becoming my second home. Everybody's door is always open and people are always wandering about ready to sit down and talk. This is a bit distracting, but so much fun. It kind of reminds me of freshman year at Loyola when everybody would stop by eachother's rooms in Hammerman. It has been easy to get to know people here, which I love. I'm not going to lie, there have been some times where I have gotten pretty homesick, but for the most part, I am loving every minute of this year. If anybody is thinking about going abroad...DO IT! It will change your life.

Until next time, keep it jammin' in the states ( or wherever you are out there).

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Blog Maken

I chose to entitle this blog "blog maken" because this website is in Dutch and it cracks me up. I spent last week trying to pass Dutch and it was honestly a joke, because Dutch is hard and I am terrible at it. It is a combo of German and English, but it is not pretty like Italian, Spanish, or French. It is like you're coughing something up whenever you speak. So anyways, I am just sitting here passing time before I get ready to go out to an Alma party, which is basically another orientation party here at KU. We have had endless gatherings going on in town where we meet other students, which is really nice, because there are just so many people to meet here. However, I do feel like a freshman all over again, which is really weird. On the other hand, it's nice because nobody knows anybody, but there is no feeling of exclusiveness here so far. I guess that's what happens when a bunch of internationals are thrown into a foreign city. Last night I felt sick, but I went out anyways, because I remind myself every day that I am in Europe and that life is short, haha. No excuses here. In Leuven there are faculty bars where you can gather and hang out with people from your major. I went to the faculty of the arts bar and it was amazing inside...so nicely decorated with quotes all over the walls. I love the bars here and the social scene; its so laid back.

This morning I went shopping for a short jacket, and ended up getting a cheap black one from H&M. I just hate going shopping here though becausethe dollar is so weak, and everyone is so damn fashionable, so I immediately want everything in the stores. However, I am always quick to remind myself that I am a student and that I must strictly adhere to a student budget. It is so hard to budget over here, by the way.

As for trips, I went to Antwerp and Brugge recently. Brugge was by far one of the prettiest places I have seen in my life. The canals and winding streets were outstanding. I think that I might ake my parents there when they visit me in November. They call Brugge the Venice of the North---and that it is. My calendar is so full here. Cookie and I were planning more trips today, and we were looking into a tour around Scotland right before we go home for Christmas. Her friend took a tour there last year for 4 days and saw most of the country. Also, we want to visit her cousin in London, because he has a penthouse flat overlooking the city...awesome! I also think that I am going to London and Bath with my parents when they visit. From Oct 31-Nov 4 I am going to Ireland as well, which should be absolutely outstanding. We have been thinking of taking a weekend trip to Germany admist all of our other trips, but it is just so hard, because we barely have any free weekends as of now. We are going to Amsterdam Nov 16-18, so along with that, my parents vcisiting, Ireland, and Thanksgiving, Nov. is basically full. I have one free weekend in October, so I may go to Germany then. Classes start this Tuesday...ugg. Actually, I am kind of excited to see what the classes are like here...should be interesting. I am going to take 5 though, which sucks. Oh well. I will be on time with my credits when I return to Loyola, which I'm sure I'll be thankful for. I am so glad that I am staying here for the year! I just want to see so much, and because I'm taking a full course load here, I'm going to need the whole year...without a doubt. I got pretty excited today when Cookie and I were looking into trips. We were also talking about what we want to do at the end of Jan/beg. of Feb. when we have our long break. We will probably go backpacking through Prague, Munich, Vienna, Salzburg, and Budapest, which will be amazing if it works out that we get 2 full weeks! As of now, we only have 9 days, but if our exams end a week earlier, we will have possibly 2 weeks. Also, we will have a few days to go to Greece after our Italy trip in the spring, and then I have two weeks to go to Spain, Switzerland, and south of France at the end of May/Beg. of June. Wow! I can't believe that I am getting to do all of this! This just is amazing and i smaking me excited just typing it.

So anyways, I must be on my way because I need to get ready for the Alma party. I'm excited to meet more internationals, although it's been rough trying to break the language and culture barrier with the people I have met so far. At first it was hard with my roommate, because she speaks little English, but she is already getting better at communicating, and she is a dear!! She is so cute. I absolutely love her and she always looks so cute. Last night she went out salsa dancing and came in at 4 am. I woke up and she told me that some guys were following her and that she is always paranoid. I told her that I am the same way...ahaha. She is so affectionate and always seems overjoyed to see me. Being the german person that I am, I find it difficult to embrace this sort of thing, but I find that I am growing accustomed to it as time goes on. Soon I will be hugging and kissing all of my friends, as well as holding their hand inpublic...jk. It really is cute though how the Spanish and Italians are so affectionate. My roommate also thinks that I have bad taste in men. She thinks that Spanish men are the epitome of manly and is quite convinced that I need to come to Spain to find a man. She is not interested in anybody here, which is funny, because I swoon over anyone with an accent. She jusr doesn't get that lol...don't expect her to either. Well, time's up, gotta go...this blog is very rushed and is probably ridden with poor grammar...deal with it. bye/hasta la vista/tot ziens/ourvoua (sp)/ciao--i am trying to learn like 5 languages here..no joke. its hard.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Viva La France

Let me begin this blog by saying that: 1. I appreciate people reading and liking my blog in all of its ridiculousness. 2. Paris is overrated. Anyways, Paris was great...saw pretty much all of it, but at the same time, it was way too touristy and dirty. I spent so much time walking that my legs almost fell off, which was another downside to the whole thing. However, I am glad to have visited Paris in my lifetime, I know that I sound like a spoiled brat by whining, but really, I am appreciative to have seen it. I really enjoyed the artwork int he Musee D'Orsay, and I loved the Rodin Museum. I also loved our night boat tour of the Siene. Two french men wearing only boxers flashed us as the boat went by...that was amusing. That brings me to my next topic-- French men. French men are insane. They will seriously do anything to get with a lady. I think there must be something in the water over there haha. All of the girls had numerous run-ins with French guys, but the most memorable one was when a limo full of guys drove by us, as they screamed out the window and told us to jump in. Me, being the mother-like figure that I am, did not allow my friends to get in the limo with these men. Yeah, I have to admit that I wanted to run with the spirit of carelessness, seeing as I was in Paree and all, but I also didn't want to be raped, haha. This homeless guy came up to us on the bridge one night and counted us, and then proceeded to follow us, in which case, we ran for our lives to the metro. He was drooling everywhere. We just couldn't escape creepy men the entire time...and people blame that on me, which I accept. I have been known to attract odd types. Following these escapades, we bought some cheap wine and drank by the river, in addition to visiting the Latin Quarter, which was an adventure. We wanted to go to a nightclub, but our only true free night was on a Tuesday n ight, and we were running out of money anyways. Oh well.

St. Malo and Normandy were gorgeous. I really loved St. Malo the best. It was right on the sea, and we took alot of walks along the beach and climbed the rocks. It was nice to breathe some fresh air after the crowded, insane city. It was also nice to be back to cheap food. I tried some cidre when I was there, which is their famous beverage...it was pretty decent. It was only 2 euro a bottle. We went to Mt. St. Micheal one day, which was absolutely breathtaking. It is on this huge mountain that juts into the sky, and is surrounded by sand, that is occasionally taken over by the tides. I just couldn't believe how beautiful it was. Normandy was the same way- breathtaking and unbelieveable. The cemetary really got to me though. I just felt like I was pretty spoiled, being on this expensive trip, when these guys died on this beach at my age fighting in a war. It was all just really haunting. On a lighter note, we spent 4 nights total on the beachs of Northern France, and that was just amazing. However, we were all ready to get back to Leuven after being on the road for 8 days. I feel like we barely had time to settle in here in the first place. I'm not complaining though, because I saw more places this past week than I have seen in my lifetime. I am definately grateful for this opportunity, and that Loyola has such an amazing study abroad program. Leuven really spoils its partcipants, so I can't understand why we only have 11 kids this year...weird. Highlight of the day: I found some awesome trails with cookie today that are on the edges of town. We were running them, when all of the sudden, I tripped over a rock and flew to the ground hahaha. It was hiliarious. The fall was totally worth finding the trails haha. We passed the engineering building on the run, which was cool, because its this big old castle looking thing with swans around the water. This is just another reason why I love Leuven!! It's great to be back.

Just wanted to mention this as well- I planned my first trip today! I booked a flight to Ireland for oct. 31st- nov 4th. We have a long weekend, and I figured that this would be a perfect time to go visit some friends and see Dublin/Cork as well. We are going to stay in Dublin on Halloween night...so cool!! and then take a bus to Cork the next day. I hope to see the coast while I;m there. I'm also planning a trip to London to see my friend Andre and just see London in general in October. We have two daytrips around Belgium coming up, and then we also have a trip to Amsterdam, which is paid for by the school, in November. I might go to Brugges and Germany with my family when they come in November as well...lots of exciting stuff coming up! Well, time to visit with some people and then head to bed...more blogs to come!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Paris Prep!

I feel at home in Leuven...already. It's hard to believe that this place feels more comfortable to me than Loyola College. Obviously I miss my home in Gibsonia, but I feel like I am not missing anything. Also, it's nice having everybody just a walk down the wall, and it's also really nice that people leave their doors open for anyone to visit. I guess that I got used to being isolated after being forced to live in an apartment last year. This setup reminds me of my freshman year, and I'm loving it. I can really see myself living here for ten months now, whereas prior to the trip I was super super nervous about feeling welcome in a foreign country.

I have been riding my bike into town the past few days in hopes of fixing my camera. First I went to a computer store, bought a memory chip, and then it was too small. Then, I went to a photo store. The guy there really creeped me out, and made some comments that worried me, so I just left, thinking that he had fixed my camera. Nope. The camera still only held 12 pictures. Sooo I went back to town today with Cristina, and I went to this best buy type of place. This cute dutch boy messed with the menu button and turns out that my chip holds like 300 pictures. Soo long story short, my camera is now able to hold a lot more pictures. The riding of the bike has been very difficult, but fun as well. People here weave in and out of people and cars and they do fine. I, however, am struggling. I almost hit a few people today. It's going to take awhile to get used to the whole biking system here. Somebody told me that you can get a 50 euro fine for dribing the wrong way or not having your headlight on when it's dark. I don't think I'll be out when it's dark. It's hard enough to drive during the day.

Last night we wnt out again and it was fun...the beer we got wasnt thast great though. It was called" Maes". It tasted like bud light or miller light. Dissappointing, to say the least. Ireally like Stella and Hoegaarden the best so far. I havent tried anything else, bc stellas are like 1- 1.20 euro. I'm cheap here. Big time. I heard Duval (devil) is like drinking 3 beers. I want to try that soon! haha. I have been staying up really late herew, because I;m still adjusting to the time change.

We had presentations on France today, just as we did yesterday. This took up a few hours. I did mine today,a nd it went pretty well. I just can't wait for Paris...it is going to be amazing! We get to see Normandy, Mont st. micheal, Paris, and the beauyex tapestries. We are actually going to stay right by thre shore where the invasion occured. crazy. I am so glad that I bought a backpack for this trip...all of my paris stuff fits.

Well, I need to go get some help with my neck, for one. I got two marks on it last night, and now they are swelling. I am really scared, seeing as I am a hypocondriac of the worst kind. I think it might have been a spider in my bed....AHHHH. They say that bugs can easily get through the windows here, and I did leave my window open for a bit the other day. I need to put my screen up that I brought. Okay, I need to go take care of this neck issue, and then we have to go watch a movie for our France trip.

I want to add that I love my group though, and that our director/his wife are amazing! Everybody here gets along sooo well, and there is definately diversity within the group, which is refreshing after two years of attendingTHE most homogeneous university known to man. Nobody here is spoiled or selfish...we are all saving as much money as we can and trying to get a job asap. It's nice to be with people who appreciate the value of saving. I am glad that I finally met some down to earth, nice as can be people that accept me. I have never felt like I fit in at Loyola, but these kidfs are different. We all came here for the same reasons, and it's just nice to know that they'll be here for me not just this yrear, but in the coming years as well.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Ahhh...finally in leuven. I got connected to the internet today, which was fabulous. I don't think I've been this excited to get connected for awhile haha. I just felt so disconnected with America and all of my friends without the internet in my room. It just goes to show how dependent we all are on quick communication and technology. Well, I am basically all unpacked and moved in; I just need to put up my pictures and organize a few more things. Yesterday we arrived by bus from the airport, put our suitcases in our room, and had a long meeting about things. Then we took a tour of Leuven, which was great, but extremely difficult. We were dragging our feet the entire time. Everybody was so tired from jet lag. The town is small, but has plenty to do. There nice cafes, restaurants, and bars everywhere, and plenty of cute boutiques. The cafes have seats outside, which really adds to the atmosphere. We went to a cafe for lunch called Alexandre today, which was delicious. Their coffee is the best I've ever had...no lie. I hear there's a place down the street where you take pieces of chocolate and put them in milk, which is considered hot chocolate. I hear it's the best hot chocolate ever haha. We'll see...I'm a conosuier ( sp).
We rented bikes today after our registration at the town hall. The bikes are old, but it's only 50 dollars to rent them for the whole year. You pay 100 euro, but that includes insurance, and you get 50 back at the end of the year when you return it. Al;mosdt everybody rides a bike or moped around here, which I think is awesome. You get so much excercise...I've been hungry nonstop since I got here. However, the food situation is a bit difficult considering there is no meal plan. We are in charge of getting our own groceries. I don't think I mind that though, because there are organic grocery stories and everything is so fresh compared to America. Well, I have to be off; We have a "practical" walking tour of Leuven in about 10 minutes. Then we have our first culture class, where we discuss our France trip ( I am soooo excited for that trip!!!) It is weird to think that it's only 8 am in America...it's almost 2 here and the day's half over. It's going to take some getting used to. I put pics up on facebook...check them out. I'll be putting more up after our tour. I miss everybody!!! Love from Leuven.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


Three days until I leave for Leuven, and I am reallllly anxious about the whole thing. I have been packing for quite awhile now and preparing for the trip, so now I'm basically just sitting here ready to go. Most of my friends have already left for school...sigh. I feel like everybody always leaves before I do for school. Oh well. I think I'm just nervous because I honestly don't really know what to expect. Everybody says that your study abroad experience is the 'best time of your life', which I truly believe, but people also caution you as to the homesickness that is a part of studying abroad. I have never really been afraid of change for as long as I can remember, but when it comes to this whole adventure I'm about to embark on, I have to admit that I'm hesitant. For some reason I just feel as though I'll be missing things (not at Loyola!), but at home. However, when you go away to college, change happens without you, whether you like it or not. I think Leuven is really going to be awesome, but I think I'm just getting the jitters, which is natural.

Looking on the bright side, next year is going to be a year for me to get to know myself better, and will, without a doubt, be a year of new beginnings for me. I have not had a satisfactory college experience so far, and I am hoping that Leuven makes up for the other three years. However, no matter what happens, I know that it will be the biggest learning experience of my life; it will expose me to so much. I think I definately need a change of pace after the last two years. I was restless and unhappy at Loyola, which is part of the reason that I chose Leuven. Transferring and studying abroad for a good length of time just wasn't an option for me, so I chose to stay at Loyola, in order to fulfill my dream, which has always been to study abroad and see the world. I think this road I'm going down is definately for a reason.

I'm sure that there will be challenging moments involved with this whole excursion, but there will also be great times that I will never forget. Studying abroad is definately an opportunity that I am grateful for. I do not that that too many people get to experience studying abroad, much less a whole year abroad. I think that I definately need to take advantage of what is ahead of me, because it is the opportunity of a lifetime.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Getting Ready

I decided to start this blog because I figure it will work as an electronic journal, just in case something should happen to my other journal during the course of my trip (which is very likely, considering my luck with life). I think that it will also give my friends and family a chance to hear all about my travels in Europe during my year abroad, and will help me develop my writing skills, seeing as this is very important to me.

Anyways, I am really excited to go to Leuven. I will be flying into Newark, NJ this Saturday, the 26th, and I will fly to Leuven on the 27th at night. We will arrive in Leuven on the 28th in the morning. We're going to settle in for three days, and then we will depart for Paris and northern France for 8 days. I am sooo excited for the France trip! I am doing a presentation on Sacre Coeur and Montemartre, which looks so interesting. Montemartre is an old bohemian village surrounding sacred heart, that is home to many vagrant artists. The Moulin Rouge is there...can't wait to see that! Montemartre is the only village left in Paris, which I find fascinating. During my trip, I will get to see things such as the Musee D'Orsay, The Eiffel Tower ( of course), the Louvre, etc. I absolutely love art. One of the things that excites me most about this whole trip next year is the history that I will be exposed to while abroad. I don't really care for the minute details of history, such as dates, etc., but history overall fascinates me to no end. I think it will be awesome to stand inside of old castles and walk down old cobblestone streets, etc.

After our France trip, we will be taking an intensive Dutch class ( they speak Dutch in Flanders, which is the region we'll be living in), for 5 days in a row, 5 hours per day. I am not looking forward to this AT ALL. I love languages, but not that much. I also heard that everybody speaks English very well in Leuven. However, I feel obligated to at least attempt to pick up some Dutch, as this is part of the whole immersion experience, and will most likely prove very valuable to me. After this intensive, we have a week off. I may try to see a city in Germany or go to London during this time. I hope to see most of Belgium, France, Ireland, England, Scotland, Netherlands ( paid trip there in Nov.!), and also maybe some Germany and Spain by time I return for Christmas. Exciting!! Now for the packing... ( ughhh)